Tuesday, October 18, 2011

War room will help GOP jab Democrats

Democrats won't be the only ones gathering in Charlotte for next year's convention. So will Republicans.

The Republican National Committee plans to operate a "war room" near the convention, with a parade of GOP VIPs grabbing their share of the spotlight.

"Any story that's written on anything happening at the convention will always have a rebuttal, there will be a counterbalance to each argument," says RNC political director Rick Wiley. "Senators, governors and congressmen (will be) coming in and out."

Such operations are nothing new for either party. In 2004, then-Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was part of the GOP team at the Democratic convention in Boston.

Wiley says next year his party will have more surrogate spokesmen than ever. For one thing, more are available. The 2010 elections simply put more Republicans in office.

And, he says, "More people understand the damage ( President Barack Obama) is doing to the economy.

"So they're more than willing to come out and speak about why he shouldn't be re-elected."
Democrats are expected to do the same thing at the Republican convention in Tampa.  

- Jim Morrill

Obama, Republicans making plans for field offices

RNC political director Rick Wiley says the GOP plan to have campaign boots on the ground by March in North Carolina.

The Obama campaign is already here.

Campaign officials, who have maintained an Organizing for America office in Raleigh, have begun hiring a network of field directors. In 2008, Obama had nearly 50 field offices and 400 staffers in the state.
"Our campaign is currently laying the foundation in North Carolina," says Lindsay Siler, Obama's N.C. director. "We will only expand our presence across the state leading up to the election."

All that underscores North Carolina's importance in 2012.

Republicans are targeting it as one of nine that George W. Bush carried in 2004 and that John McCain lost in 2008.

"We look at places like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina as the first three we can pick off," says Wiley. "It's important to the president, too. It shows."  

- Jim Morrill

Academics debate convention and politics

It was one of the first of many to come: A panel discussion of academics, zeroing in on Charlotte, politics and the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

Organized by the Charlotte Teachers Institute, the event Friday night at UNC Charlotte's Center City building featured discussions about everything from the subtle political messages in "Spiderman 3" to whether children under 18 should be able to vote.

Faculty members from UNC Charlotte, Davidson College and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools weighed in.

Davidson College's Josh Putnam said that the Charlotte convention, like most of the others in recent decades, will basically be "a nice pep rally."

UNC Charlotte's Heather Smith, meanwhile, cast Charlotte as an unconventional convention city - a hybrid of Southern charm and global dynamism. Or as she put it, taking off on the slogan at Bill Spoon's local BBQ restaurant:

"Charlotte cooks the whole pig - the South and global, the past and the present, the conventional and the unconventional."  

- Tim Funk

York's Spratt pushing S.C. participation in convention

Former U.S. Rep. John Spratt isn't representing York County, S.C., up in Washington any more. But he's still looking out for his one-time district when it comes to involving its people and facilities in next year's Democratic National Convention.

And he'll have plenty of chances to do so as a member of Charlotte's host committee for the 2012 convention.

"It's a great opportunity to showcase Charlotte," Spratt said of the convention. "And not only that, it's also an opportunity to showcase this region."

He said he's been hearing from officials at Winthrop University and others south of the N.C.-S.C. border about plugging them and their resources into the big show.

"That's going to be my objective," Spratt said. "To try to find these people and make sure good use is made of their time and talent."

And in case you wondered: Yes, Spratt misses Washington. Not all the partisan "antics," he said, but definitely the money matters.

The former House Budget Committee chairman, who lost his re-election bid in 2010, said he wishes he was "in the middle of the fray" over the ongoing budget battles in Congress.

Added Spratt: "I feel a little bit like somebody who has to sit on the bench and watch his team play the game."

- Tim Funk

Chicago's Hinton tabbed for Democrats' diversity post

Democrats Monday tapped a Chicago businessman as the "chief diversity officer" for the convention and the national party.

Greg Hinton, chief diversity officer of Chicago-based US Cellular, will advise the convention and the party on diversity in staffing and procurement.

"The Democratic Party has long been dedicated to including talented people who reflect the diversity of our great country, and Greg will bring his talents to bear as we make sure we are living up to that," party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

Hinton has worked on diversity issues for other companies including Abbott Labs and Pepsi General Bottlers.

"Our party is stronger because of our diversity," Hinton said. "And in this new role I will be working to make sure we are harnessing our diverse experiences and points of view in the most effective way possible."

Hinton starts Monday.